Kate* is a mother of three from Edinburgh. She and her husband Daniel*, both 30, “have [their] tiptoes on the breadline” despite Daniel working as a local councillor and Kate receiving child benefit. Their children – one in high school and two in primary school, the youngest of whom has special needs – visit the school breakfast clubs and are entitled to free meals during term time. But, facing six weeks of holiday hunger every summer, they feel let down by the state.
“People don’t realise how much it costs to feed a family,” Kate says. “In a normal week we would buy branded bread, things like that. But during the summer holidays you have to get the cheapest of the cheap – cheapest bread, cheapest peanut butter, cheapest jam. Things that will cost little and go far to make sure there’s at least something to feed your children with.
“They suffer nutritionally, no doubt about it, and it breaks my heart.
“You can’t feed your kids a balanced diet, you can’t take them anywhere fun in the holidays. All your energy goes into stretching your budget from hour to hour for seven weeks. You can’t help but think you must be a bad parent. It really affects your mental health, and theirs. It’s the worst guilt you can get.”
The family is forced to spend around £100 extra on food per week during the holidays to compensate for the breakfasts, lunches and snacks the children receive at school. As well as the guilt of struggling to feed your own children, Kate says, it’s compounded when her kids come home with friends – she can only afford to give snacks to her own.
“There’s no thinking, ‘We’ve got something shoved to the back of the freezer, it’ll be fine’. You’ve got what you’re going to eat that day and that is it.”